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Vols Take Care Of Hornets, While Two Vols Join An Elite club

The Tennessee Vols hosted Alabama St. on Wednesday night at TBA, looking to extend their home winning streak.

After ASU opened the game up with a 3-pointer, Tennessee went on a 9-0 run that included a few big blocks by Yves Pons, which led to a few big shots that set the tone for the evening.

The Vols were trying to use their length on the inside to force problems for the Hornets. It sure looked like the plan was working when it came to rebounding. The Vols were attacking the glass, while also forcing ASU into some bad shots. Midway through the 1st half, Josiah-Jordan James had already secured five rebounds, a stat he’d almost triple by the end of the game.

Tennessee went 1-10 during a stretch midway through the 1st half, which could be attributed to a few bad looks & forced shots. But, the Vols started slowly getting back into the flow, thanks in part to a few big shots from Jordan Bowden,

Rick Barnes attributed the sluggish play on his older guys not being ready ” I think defensively we felt like we could guard their sets. We felt like it would be a point where they were going to have to try to take us off the dribble and drive and kick the ball, and (the challenge was) could we stay in front and do it without fouling. We knew they were going to be way back in there on offense to start the game. We missed too many easy shots early in the game, again I think that goes back to where you’re not really ready to play, and the older guys did that”

On a night in which two Vols had the opportunity to cement their legacy, Jordan Bowden joined the 1,000 point club for Tennessee hoops at the 5:54 mark in the 1st half. A milestone night for the veteran Tennessee player, who will now be a part of an elite club.

Tennessee continued trying some different defensive matchups throughout the 1st half, as ASU kept it close on the scoreboard. The Vols went into halftime with a 34-23 lead & were led by Jordan Bowden, who had 12 points at the break.

Josiah-Jordan James finally got onto the scoring sheet early in the 2nd half. His contribution on the glass & defense weren’t lost on anyone. He finished with 13 rebounds & 3 points. I hope folks continue with the patience, because once his shot starts to fall, he’ll be an even bigger force for this basketball team.

Rick Barnes said you can see the growth in JJJ’s game:”I do think – his growth- you started watching it in the Washington game. I thought, for the most part, he calmed down and wasn’t as antsy as he was in the first couple games. When I look back, he missed a lot of basketball this fall, but I expect him to continue to get better each time he goes out.”

Tennessee started off the 2nd half with an aggression towards the basket, leading 43-26 at the first TV break, thanks to some fierce defense & key shots. But, coming out of the break, the Vols went over six minutes without a FG. To the delight of fans in attendance, the drought was finally ended by Olivier Nkamhoua with the quick turnaround jumper in the paint,

Jordan Bowden wouldn’t be the only Tennessee player celebrated on Wednesday night. Lamonte Turner joined his teammate in the 1,000 point club at the 11:38 mark in the 2nd half. It was a big night for this duo, who continue to feed off each other, which is not a good sign for opposing teams.

Rick Barnes was asked about the growth of Turner & Bowden:“Their growth has been amazing and both of them are very hard working, great people. They’re the kind of people that you want to be around every day, I don’t know if they ever have a bad day. Lamonte was really the first player that we recruited as a staff coming in, and he had to sit that first year but his development overall—not only as a player but watching him grow as a human being—is something that we’re all very proud of. The same for Jordan. Jordan’s been a mainstay from the time he came in. He got pushed in there and he’s had to play different roles throughout his career, as has Lamonte. Those guys have been as big a part of the success we’ve had the last couple years as the guys we lost.”

Tennessee has had 2 players join the 1,000 point club in the same game, something achieved last season by Grant Williams & Admiral Schofield.

Yves Pons continues to show his offseason improvement, especially behind the perimeter. Pons knocked down a 3-point shot at the 9:26 mark that brought the TBA crowd to its feet. Yves finished in double-digits for the 4th consecutive game. He’s not just playing good defense, he’s been one of the Vols top scorers this season, a welcomed stat for Rick Barnes.

Jordan Bowden exited the game with 5:00 left in the 2nd half, as he finished with 16 points, 4 steals & 2 rebounds. Judging by the ovation he received, this will be a night the duo of “Thunder & Lightning” will never forget.

Tennessee continued pushing ASU into forced shots, while ramping it up offensively. Knoxville native Drew Pember checked into the game for the Vols & scored seven quick points. This was a welcomed sight for local fans, who have watched this young man grow up on the basketball court.  Pember finished with 8 points & 5 rebounds.

Rick Barnes spoke highly of Pember’s instincts tonight “He came in—and Drew is 6’10’’—and he’s long. He still hasn’t figured out the speed of the game, he doesn’t yet understand how hard he’s got to play, and he’s got terrific basketball instincts. I’m disappointed that he missed free throws, but I think he should be a 90+ percent free throw shooter. He can shoot, but he’s going to have to learn to work hard. He made great effort going to get it, and he’s got great instincts. Once he understands how hard you’ve got to work to be good at this game, who knows how good he can be? He’s got to figure that out first, and he hasn’t figured that out yet. He did make some things happen tonight, just because of his instincts.”

It was announced tonight that Zach Kent would be leaving the team “Indefinitely”. Rick Barnes was asked how they would fill the gap “We’ll have to piece it together. We still have four guys that work there on the front line now. You’ve got the two that we played tonight—Olivier and Drew—and if we had to ever put someone else there because of his natural strength and ability, it would have to be someone like Josiah”

The final seconds came off the scoreboard & Tennessee extended their home winning streak to 29 games, with the 76-41 victory. The Vols out-rebounded ASU 45-30 & shot 46% from FG range.

The Vols finished the game with four starters in double-digits, which led the way for the bench to get in on the action. The Vols will return to the court on Monday, with a matchup against Chattanooga.


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